Realizing the RIA knows she’s in the building, Tilly jumps from a third floor window in the hopes of escaping.
Wishing there was a tall and majestic tree outside the window, I dropped three stories and into the hedgerow surrounding the chemistry building. Branches stabbed and poked me while rough leaves scraped my exposed skin, but the hedge also broke my fall. Students stared at me in slack-jawed stupefaction as I pulled myself free of a now-mangled bush. From the open window above me, Dr. Calloway’s voice rose in panicked indignation.
“Help! A madman attacked me! Help!”
A madman? Could this be the same professor whose eyes never strayed north of my breasts when I was a student? Putting that thought out of my mind, I sprinted toward a nearby courtyard that should be crowded with students at this time of day. While running, I ran a hand through my hair and brushed away leaves and twigs caught in it.
Behind me, Dr. Calloway must have found his bearings because his cries turned demanding, “You, woman, come away from that window and pull this desk away from me!”
I could only assume the agent outside Dr. Kristof’s office responded to Calloway’s shouts, though not in the way the old bastard hoped. Fighting down the urge to look over my shoulder, I cut to my left and, two steps later, cut back to the right. I heard the crack of the blaster at the same time a bolt splashed against the walkway. It barely left a mark. At least the agent had her gun set to stun.
Another bolt flew wide as I zigged when the agent expected a zag. That shot clipped a student’s leg. He fell to the ground, clutching his leg and screaming far more than the shot deserved. Mass panic swept through the students. With cries and screams, they scattered in all directions. That helped me some but hindered me almost as much.
With people dashing madly all around the courtyard the agent would have trouble hitting me from her window vantage point. But I was slowed by the unpredictable mob running wild around me. Despite my best efforts, people caromed into me and knocked me off my stride every few seconds. Worse, a couple of the bigger ones sent me crashing to the ground. I recovered before anyone trampled me but lost precious time doing so.
The center of the courtyard was clear when I reached it, giving me the chance to sprint ahead and also contact Kelly over the comm. “Red!”
That was short for ‘condition red,’ which meant I’d been spotted.
Kelly’s reply was immediate, “Blue?”
That was a pickup location on the southeastern edge of the campus. I, of course, was running north. “Green.”
The ‘green’ pickup was on the north side of campus — about as far from the blue rendezvous spot as possible. I thought I detected a slight sigh when she replied, “Five.”
Could I avoid capture by RIA agents for five minutes? I didn’t have any other choice, so I said, “Roger.”
By then I heard authoritative shouts coming from behind me. The agent in the window must have gotten her fellow agents out of the ducts and on my tail. I risked a glance over my shoulder and saw three men, blaster pistols held high, ordering panicked students from their path. Anyone who moved too slowly was unceremoniously shoved aside.
Because of their rough tactics — not to mention their guns — the men were gaining on me. I, on the other hand, was almost to the other side of the courtyard. The physics department was less than twenty meters ahead of me. Once inside it, I could disappear into the tunnels and wait until the furor died down. I’d also give Kelly the code to come back for me in six hours.
I finally got free of the mob of students. My escape path lay just ahead of me. Then, to my right, I saw them — the hot female agent and her earnest suiter from our approach to the university. They must have rotated stations while I was working my way into Dr. Kristof’s office.
Like the other agents, they had their blaster pistols in hand. Unlike the other agents, they had a close, clear shot at me.
I sent a last message to Kelly. “Abort.”
The agents leveled their guns. I saw a bright flash as they fired. Then everything went dark.
What will Jana and friends do now? Find out in Chapter 55, coming Friday.